What are the negative effects of procrastination
Cancer in the pandemic: more deaths from postponing therapy
Even a four-week postponement can significantly reduce the patient's chances of successful treatment. The risk of death increases - depending on the cancer and the type of therapy - by six to thirteen percent. The longer the waiting time, the more the risk of death increases: "A postponement of eight weeks for breast cancer would increase the risk of death by 17 percent and twelve weeks by 26 percent," write the study authors. “Delaying surgery by twelve weeks for all breast cancer patients over a period of one year (e.g. during a Covid-19 lockdown) would result in 1,400 additional deaths in the UK, 6,100 in the US, 700 in Canada and 500 in Australia. "This is a" sobering result "and it suggests that" the survival benefits of early therapy are similar (and perhaps greater) than the benefits of some new therapeutic agents. "
The authors assume that the effects of delayed treatments go beyond the mere survival statistics. Because your data do not contain the costs of more expensive treatments as a result of more severe courses of disease progression, nor additional care costs or the overall societal productivity losses that arise from premature illness and death: "Therefore, the influence of treatment delays on patients and society is probably much greater, than what our results show. "
Required reading for decision-makers in the healthcare sector
An example from Great Britain shows how important this study is. There, the National Health Service (NHS) had developed an algorithm to prioritize operations in the system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A delay of the operations by ten to twelve weeks was assumed to be “safe” for some indications - including all colon cancer operations. A decision with fatal consequences: "We found that waiting for an operation from six to twelve weeks would increase the risk of death by nine percent," says the BMJ.
The study is likely to become required reading for decision-makers in the healthcare sector. Delaying the start of cancer treatments was an issue even before the pandemic. The study shows that the effect on treatment chances has so far been underestimated. For the majority of cancers, the scientists see no indication that a delay in therapy is possible without negative consequences for the patient.
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